It’s that time of year again: cold and flu season. Your immune system is a powerful, multi-tiered network of organs and cells that protects you against foreign, deleterious microbes—and it will be working overtime to keep up with all the viruses and bacteria that circulate more readily during colder seasons.
A healthy overall lifestyle (including a good diet and ample sleep) provides the ultimate foundation for healthy immune function, but there are also natural, delicious “supplemental” ways to shore up your body’s defense system. Each of the following seven drinks contains potent nutrients your immune system needs to keep you healthy.
1. Green Tea
One of green tea’s most powerful ingredients is a plant compound known as Epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG. In addition to keeping cells healthy, EGCG has been shown to increase the number of T cells (a type of white blood cell that plays a key role in fighting infections) in the body, according to research in Immunology Letters. Though the study was done on mice, researchers found that EGCG “turned-on” T cell expression in the spleen and lymph nodes, and by extension, helped control immune response.
2. Vegetable and Fruit Juice
Sugar content aside, there are reasons to not write off the therapeutic potential of nutrient dense juices. Vitamin C is a powerful immune-strengthening micronutrient that can boost your T and B cell (a type of white blood cell that produces antibodies) counts. In fact, a vitamin C deficiency makes you more susceptible to infections, according to a paper in Nutrients. And since your body can’t make vitamin C on its own, you have to be sure to get it through your diet — namely, via fresh fruits and veggies.
Citrus fruits like orange and grapefruit are some of the best (and tastiest!) sources of this key vitamin, and juices can make it easier to get high doses in quick order. But citrus isn’t the only source by far. Research suggests pomegranate juice may have antimicrobial and antiviral properties, largely thanks to plant compounds like ellagic acid and tannins like punicalagin. Finally, guava juice, particularly if the whole fruit is used, offers more than twice the amount of vitamin C as a small orange, with fewer carbs to boot.
You can buy your juice at the store, but pressing fresh fruits into homemade juice will ensure you get the most bang for your nutritional buck. When it comes to vitamin C, freshness matters.
Just keep in mind that juices probably won’t help cure an existing cold. However, regular doses of vitamin C may shorten the length of your cold or lessen your symptoms.
3. Chai Tea
This fragrant, spicy black tea owes many of its health benefits to a hearty blend of spices, which often includes ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper, cloves and fennel. Ginger, for example, has been shown to have antimicrobial properties, as well as the ability to reduce inflammation. Similarly, cinnamon contains potent polyphenols that offer protection from free radicals and help fight inflammation. Taken together, these and the other ingredients in chai tea offer a flavorful means for boosting immune health. Just stay away from the overly sweetened versions you often find at coffee shops — especially if you’re monitoring your blood sugar.
Finally, keep in mind that chai tea contains varying levels caffeine, so you may want to opt for another beverage if you’re sensitive.
4. Lemon-Flavored Water (Hot or Cold)
Much like its less-tart cousins, orange and grapefruit, lemon is a great source of vitamin C. In fact, just one of these citrus fruits provides roughly half your daily recommended dose. But since lemon can be pretty intense on its own, you may have better luck squeezing some into water to dilute it. Add a wedge or two to a mug of steaming hot water, or a tall glass of chilled water for a quick immunity boost.
5. Chamomile Tea
The flowers of this calming beverage are filled with plant compounds known as flavonoids, which may help reduce inflammation. Not to mention, inhaling the steam from chamomile may soothe symptoms of a common cold, though the research isn’t conclusive. Boost the power of your tea by adding a squeeze of fresh lemon.
6. Yogurt Smoothies
Yogurt as a source of probiotics offers a great means for creating thick, creamy smoothies that not only taste delicious, but also support the gut flora environment so essential to your immune function. Some studies reveal that probiotics can reduce inflammation, as well as reduce your likelihood of developing an upper respiratory infection. Plus, yogurt smoothies are a great way to add more immune-boosting fruits like strawberry and kiwi to your diet. Look for yogurt that’s been fortified with vitamin D (or make sure you’re getting enough through natural sun exposure or separate supplement), as this micronutrient is also a potent immune system booster.
7. Bone Broth
Finally, bone broth can influence immune function through the secondary means of supporting a healthy gut, which is a primary seat of immune function in the body. If your digestive health is compromised through untreated food sensitivities, leaky gut syndrome, or autoimmune conditions (often a confluence of these factors), bone broth may be a linchpin in rebooting your immune system.
Here are some additional immune-boosting tips:
Start Small: Swap out your regular beverages with any (or all) of the seven above. Each option contains key cold- and flu-fighting nutrients to keep your immune system healthy.
Get (or Stay) Active: Other lifestyle habits aside from nutrition also contribute to a healthy immune system. Regular physical activity, for example, promotes blood circulation, which helps your immune-supporting cells travel where needed. In fact, just 20 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise may be enough to stimulate the immune system to produce an anti-inflammatory response, according to a study in Brain, Behavior and Immunity. [https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889159116305645?via%3Dihub]
Get Outside: Regular doses of sunlight may also support a healthy immune system, as shown by a 2016 study in Scientific Reports. [https://www.nature.com/articles/srep39479] It turns out that the blue light found in natural sunlight gets your T cells moving faster so they can respond to infections more efficiently. Just one more reason to get outside!
Thanks for stopping by today, everyone. Thoughts, questions? Share them below, and have a great week.
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